The Night He Came Home 40 Years Later (Halloween, 2018)

Halloween_PosterIt has been forty years since the rampage of Michael Myers in Haddonfield, IL.  And Michael Myers absolutely was caught and has been institutionalized ever since. He totally did not massacre a hospital or anything else.

The trauma had a profound effect on Laurie Strode, who is totally not the sister of Michael Myers. When Myers is being transferred to a tougher facility, the bus crashes and Myers escapes.  He goes on a new and bloodier rampage, while Laurie tries to protect her estranged daughter and her family.

Myers is not driven to find Laurie because he is her sister, he just is a big believer in finishing what you start…? So, much has been made of the fact that this film is a direct sequel to the original John Carpenter Classic.   There is a throwaway line that pretty much pushes all the other films into the realm of “urban legends” which…I guess works.  Admittedly, it makes some of this feel less personal. But at the same time, the portrayal of Laurie as a survivor of a brutal event who became fueled by her fear and paranoia to never be a victim again (shades of Terminator 2 here, including the pained relationship with her daughter who was taken away from her by the state, as she was training her to be a warrior) is really pretty exciting here.  Curtis is really great in the role.  And she shines each time she is on screen. There is a lot of meat for her here.

The film has some great callbacks to the original with little moments and visual cues. It also has some beautifully lit shots.

The film is really overloaded with characters, and this results in characters you kind of expect to matter more suddenly are just out of the story.  Now granted, some of the characters kind of stand out as victims. But Laurie’s grand daughter is a huge focus and then she disappears for nearly the entire sequence where Michael and Laurie are stalking each other through Laurie’s house. Granddaughter Allison’s boyfriend seems like he will play a pretty big role and literally just drops out of the film, never to be seen again.

There is at least one twist that seems to be either super predictable or totally out of left field depending on who you ask…but…oh well…

Is this a new classic entry in the franchise?  Well…not really.  Is it bad? No.  I actually really did enjoy the film. It can be uneven, but it is still an enjoyable ride. It does rise above a lot of the previous films in the franchise.  Again, Curtis is really good (really, the core cast of Curtis, Greer, Will Patton and Matichak is great).  Plus, the new Carpenter soundtrack is just killer all the way through.  I kid you not, that was almost worth the price of admission alone for me.

The Ultimate Halloween

There have been a lot of box sets of film franchises. Often, the series is owned by one studio. This gets tougher for many horror franchises. Child’s Play is owned by MGM, the other films are owned by Universal. Paramount owned the first eight films in the Friday the 13th series, New Line had the later films. Halloween was owned by multiple studios, with the first five films settling in under Anchor Bay and the sixth film on belonging to Dimension Films.

Earlier in 2014, Shout Factory’s horror line Scream Factory announced a pretty big deal. They got Dimension, Universal and Anchor Bay to agree to allow a box set with every single Halloween film. All ten films. And you get the television versions of Halloween and Halloween 2. I watch the television version of Halloween every year. But the real big shocker? The never before released in America Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6: the Curse of Michael Myers. It has been long rumored to be vastly superior to the (admittedly abysmal) theatrical version of the film.  I addressed that earlier this week.  They also include the unrated versions of both Rob Zombie films.

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The packaging is terrific.  A nice box houses ten individual cases, black instead of the traditional blue.  The cover art is the classic cover art.  The box has some really good and atmospheric painted art.

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Every disc includes special features related to the individual film.  These are made with care and the producers  manage to get a lot of the original teams to return and discuss their experiences on the film.  If you love to dive into special features (as I do), this is a very rich set.  The set includes a bonus disc with new special features (mostly relating to Halloween’s 3-5).

Some of the special features were on previous releases (Considering Anchor Bay has released a 20th Anniversary Set, 25th Anniversary Set and 35th Anniversary set, there was a lot to use).  Considering the Halloween:H20 DVD years ago claimed to have special features that  were not actually on the disc, it is nice to finally get to see interviews and behind the scenes stuff that was promised.  In the end, I think the only thing missing from the deluxe set was the Halloween 25 Years of Terror DVD set.  And they include some of the special features from that.  Keep in mind, the non-deluxe version of the set does not have the Halloween II Television Version or the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6.

The picture quality is great, keeping some of the grain, but the blu-ray transfers are never muddy, allowing us to never miss some of those great out of the shadow reveals.  This is how a box set should be.  I truly wish the Shout Factory had been in on the Friday the 13th and Chucky box sets…because we would more than likely have gotten a pretty sweet deal out of it.  The Shout Factory has set a standard here.  This is not that surprising, they have spent years making themselves stand out as kind of the Criterion Collection for pop culture.

(Still) The Night He Came Home (Halloween II,1981)

halloween_2Halloween 2 is guilty of kicking off a lot of horror sequel trends. You remember that kid Randy from the Scream movies? The one who explained all the rules of the slasher genre? Halloween 2 pretty much nailed every one of the rules of a sequel that Randy talks about in Scream 2.

Halloween 2 does not suck. On the other hand, it is not quite as good as the first film. Carpenter and Hill are producers and helped with the script, but the film was directed by first time film director Rick Rosenthal (who has gone on to direct a lot of television, especially in the horror/fantasy genre such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville) who returned to the last film before Rob Zombie’s reboot. So, as with many sequels, this was someone cutting their teeth.

Spoilers are cutting up next.  Ouch. Sorry about the pun.

The part of this film that works is we have our main cast returning and it continues on the same night as the original film.  This one picks up as Dr. Loomis believes he shot Michael dead, only, of course to look over the edge and see Michael is gone.

The story continues Michael’s unrelenting attack, though it becomes more refined.  People often forget,  it was Halloween 2 that introduced the idea that Michael and Laurie were siblings (It was also the second film that first used the song Mr. Sandman to creepy effect).  Nearly the entire second film takes place in a hospital, with the majority of film’s victims being hospital employees.

As the film starts, Laurie Strode is taken to the local hospital, which is pretty sparcely populated at the time, we see no patients (other than some newborns in the nursery at one point), only a skeletal staff of nurses and ambulance drivers.  Of the two drivers, we have the kind hearted Jimmy Lloyd (played by Last Starfighter Lance Guest) and the sex obsessed, crass Graham (played by Jeffrey Kramer).  Graham is constantly trying to get some alone time with his girlfriend, Nurse Bailey (Pamela Susan Shoop).  Jimmy on the other hand keeps trying to sneak in to talk to Laurie, though head nurse Mrs. Alves (Gloria Gifford) keeps interfering, insisting Jimmy let Laurie rest.

Dr. Loomis is still working with police to try and catch Michael, but that relationship becomes increasingly strained as the sheriff discovers that one of the dead teens is his own daughter.  It is when Marion Chambers (who we saw in the first film) comes to tell Loomis he must leave with her under state orders that they discover a truth that was hidden from even Loomis.  Michael had another sister, little Laurie Strode.  Loomis, being the determined guy he is, will not go down without a fight and demands to be taken to the hospital.

Of course, in the meantime, hospital staff have dropped like flies.  Laurie has been sedated, but she refuses to give up and stumbles through the hospital trying to escape the ever present Michael Myers.  If it sounds familiar, this is because many films have duplicated this cat and mouse since in the slasher and horror genre.  But Halloween 2 pulls it off well, it is one of the film’s strong points.

Loomis arrives at the hospital for a final showdown with Michael.  In one of the less plausible moments, Laurie manages to shoot both Michael’s eyes out with a gun…which only blinds him.   Holding a scalpel, he swings wildly as Laurie and Dr. Loomis turn on the various gas tanks in the room.  Loomis sends Laurie out of the room and then flicks a Bic lighter (okay, maybe it was some generic brand of lighter) blowing himself and Michael up.

This film ups the killings, using various implements found in the hospital (such as needles).  The kills are more gruesome and elaborate, the characters less dimensional (hardly a shock as there are more characters introduced).  It carries through pretty seamlessly from the first.  But it lacks something without Carpenter’s skilled eye for the use of shadows and light to obscure Michael.  So it has a different feel.

They do try and advance the story, rather than re-hash it (which is where we get the family connection exploited both well and poorly in later films).  It is notable that they killed Michael off believing that they were done with stories about Myers.  I mean, where else could they go?  The idea was that now they could make other movies with the Halloween title, but all new stories and characters.  And then they made Halloween 3.

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